Book Review: Embracing New Samaria
A book by a Mexican-American evangelical minister from Minnesota (via Laredo), written for fellow “Jesus freaks” intent on making new disciples, planting new churches, and seeing God at work in the margins: You might think this book is not for you. And yet, radical empathy and social justice—non-sectarian values—are taught in scripture, too. And with Alejandro Mandes’ buoyant teachings, biblical verses are given the spotlight of contemporary—and at times non-denominational—relevance. Compassion, connection, community, and loving and understanding all people across the Christian world make up his vision of the titular new Samaria.
First, backstory: Samaria is an ancient land in Israel, and the Samaritans were known antagonists to Jews and Judaism. The Samaritan woman at the well story (in John) is a parable about over- coming suspicion of foreigners; the woman recognizes Christ as a true prophet, converts, and brings untold numbers into the fold.
Mandes turns his lens to marginalized communities, focusing on recent immigrants and Latinx communities in particular, but includes any culture or ethnicity different from the majority population: The new Samaria is our own backyard.
He would like Christians to see the marginalized as prime candidates for cross-cultural “accommodation over assimilation” while inspiring a love of and commitment to Jesus. It is hard to unravel an evangelical argument for parity, equality, and loving thy neighbor. But conversion to a new faith is not a foolproof way to bridge cultural difference.
At heart, Embracing the New Samaria is a call to action for evangelical Christians, full of inspired and practical strategies for growing churches. He encourages younger Christians to rethink how their elders may have been shortsighted in creating (mostly white) monocultures. For the non-evangelical, there are rich analogues to the culture at large should they choose to step around the conversion rallies.